Canada - Full Moon 67 - 03/28/02
The Trial of St-Orange
To some extent their are two poles to a music collection: familiar, comfort music that gets
played to make you feel a certain way or when you're in a particular mood; and music that
challenges you, that you listen to when you want to question who you are and what music means.
The former type cradles you in its never-changing arms; the latter sounds different on every
I have some albums that I don't even like very much, but they're interesting, so I return
them to try and figure out why they were made, what the band/artist are trying to say, and why
the hell I was drawn to them in the first place. Instrumental music is challenging simply because
it lacks the interpretative context of a lyrical focus. But I like to be challenged, and when I
saw this CD reviewed on the excellent Pitchfork site I thought
I'd give it a go.
To step out into the unknown takes courage, and this feeling of freedom can be terrifying.
Plus, spending your hard-earned record-buying money on something that you haven't heard is a big
risk. The trouble is that music as open-ended and strange as that made by Shalabi Effect is
difficult to write about objectively. This album has, in turn, made me angry at how awkward it
is, thrilled by how new it sounds, made me fall asleep, and questioned the boundary between
composed and improvised music.
Do we push the boundaries of sound because we're running out of places to go, or because
we're heading in a direction we feel we should be going? Are we carving out a tiny niche because
that's where we feel we belong or because that's where we're forced to eke out an existence?
These must be questions the musicians in Shalabi Effect ask themselves, and I haven't a clue what
the answers are. Do this band make these sounds because no one else does, or is this their
collective soul they're committing to tape, honestly and beautifully?
It has to be said that are some beautiful moments on this album. But why call a song "Mr Titz
(The Revelator)" when the other songs are called lovely things like "Sundog Ash" and "A Glow In
The Dark". Inexplicable. The music is strange, initially forbidding, but continues to surprise.
Its stubborn way of not sounding like anything else I've heard is simultaneously thrilling and
infuriating. Largely Eastern-tinged in timbre, the sounds are loosely weaved, but in glorious
patterns. It's all handled very skilfully. The way the breakbeats in "Mr Titz" are used without
making me recoil at the suggestion of 'fusion' or 'beat science' or other such tasteful coffee-table
bollocks is genius in itself. And the sub-bass and jittery rhythm in that particular song are
The disc is broadly split into three parts, each subtly evolving with Eastern drums and string
instruments, field recordings and electronics. Being from Montreal, Canada, there are also some
mumbled French voices that act as another strange ingredient in the mix.
Overall I haven't a clue what this music is communicating to me, but it keeps me coming back
for more. Be wary, but keep an open mind, and you could be lost in it too.
Copyright © 2002 Tim Clarke